Nancy Scola over at TechPresident has the scoop on the latest attempt by a Presidential campaign to personalize mass emails. Basically, “Barack Obama” sent a “personal” email message out to his list yesterday about Hillary’s cash advantage. I am a member of Obama’s list and got the message. Then a few hours later Obama’s message was forwarded to me by some stranger in Leawood, KS with a personal note encouraging me to donate more cash. This same person from Leawood, KS also emailed Nancy, and the “from” address on the email was the same generic [email protected] address that “Barack” emails me from personally. Basically, I think the Obama campaign has built some tools into their site that makes it easy for the most active members of their list to send mass emails to the least active.

This is just the latest iteration of a trend this cycle: impersonal mass emails that have been carefully doctored to look like personal notes. These stripped down emails have some common characteristics:

  • They are usually from someone high up in the campaign who would never email you personally.
  • They do not include any pictures or graphics and very little formatting (bolding, italics, etc.). So it looks likes something the sender could plausibly put together themselves.
  • They include typical email subject lines like “FW” and “RE” that make it look like the sender just spontaneously decided to forward me something from Outlook.
  • The text is the same press-office crafted spin you read in every campaign email.

Basically they are made to look like the work/pleasure emails we all get everyday from our friends, clients and co-workers, but are really the same old same old.

Part of me likes this trend. Theoretically, I prefer to receive text emails w/o all the formatting and pretty pictures.   I’m also confident these are working pretty well, based on Obama’s fundraising numbers.

But mostly I think these carefully crafted emails are just cynical and somewhat troubling. I think Nancy summed it up pretty well:

It’s worrying to me that the lesson that we thought we learned from 2004 — that people respond to personalized politics — is being so loosely interpreted to in 2008 in a way that seems to imply that people won’t know the difference between actual connections between real-live people and bulk emails from people who may as well be fake. There’s no difference between this email and one obviously written by the Obama press shop.

What do you think? Am I overreacting or does this tactic strike you are pretty cynical as well?

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.